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Exercise of the Week: 1-leg Supine Bridge with Hamstrings Catch

 Today's guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance - Massachusetts coach, Josh Zall.

The 1-Leg Supine Bridge with Hamstrings Catch is an exercise we’ve been prescribing more frequently of late with a lot of our more advanced athletes at Cressey Sports Performance. A dynamic “drop-catch” offers an array of benefits for all athletes regardless of their chosen athletic endeavor.

Important Considerations:

When an athlete who is young, untrained, or generally hypermobile dives into this movement without the ability to adequately decelerate, it can be too challenging to drive a valuable adaptation. For an exercise that starts in a static position and quickly transitions into a dynamic movement that requires coordination, making sure the athlete is proficient in general hamstring strength and motor control is key.

The ability to get into and hold a single-leg bridge is the only true prerequisite for prescribing this movement in a program.

Benefits:

The exposure to a co-contraction is one of the biggest prizes of this movement. A co-contraction is a simultaneous contraction of the agonist and antagonist muscles to stabilize a joint against opposing forces, and the ability to create a co-contraction is a key for joint and connective tissue health for athletes. With hamstring strains plaguing athletes of all sports, having the ability to create a unilateral co-contraction and create concentric activity with the hamstring in a lengthened position is vital for lower limb health (think initial contact and take-off phase of a sprint; front foot strike in a pitcher’s delivery; or any side shuffles).

Something important to keep in mind is that co-contractions are not a central nervous system phenomenon, so exposing your body to situations where you need to co-contract while fatigued is important for connective tissue health. With that being said, this is an exercise that I typically program for an athlete as accessory work or in a movement (sprint/agility) day in their program - usually for 4-8 reps per set.

A simple way to regress to this movement would be to not allow for excessive knee extension on the catch. The opposite would be true when progressing this movement -- “catching” at end-range or close to end-range knee extension would increase the difficulty.

Enjoy!

About the Author

Josh Zall serves as a Strength and Conditioning coach at Cressey Sports Performance. He earned a Bachelor's Degree in Sport and Movement Science at Salem State University, and has internship coaching experience from both CSP-MA and Saint John's Preparatory Academy in Danvers, MA. 

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The Best of 2021: Strength and Conditioning Videos

With my last post, I kicked off the "Best of 2021" series with my top articles of the year. Today, we'll highlight the top five videos of the year.

1. Cross-Behind 1-arm Cable Row with Alternate Arm Reach - Courtesy of the imagination of Cressey Sports Performance – Florida co-founder Shane Rye, the cross-behind 1-arm cable row is a new horizontal pulling variation we’ve been using quite a bit in 2021. I elaborated on why that's the case here.

2. Band-Assisted Vertical Jump - Drew Cobin authored a great guest post on where this can fit into a power training program; check it out here.

3. 1-arm, 1-leg Kettlebell Swing with Rack Assistance - Published just lack week with an assist from CSP coach Josh Kuester, this one became an instant hit. Learn more about it here.

4. Prone External Rotation End-Range Lift-off to Internal Rotation - Many rotator cuff exercises focus on building strength/motor control/timing in positions that aren’t specific to the throwing motion, but this one forces overhead athletes to be proficient in positions that really matter.

5. Understanding and Measuring Passive Range of Motion - Measuring passive range of motion is a crucial step in any thorough movement assessment. However, it’s often – both intentionally and unintentionally – measured inappropriately.

I'll be back soon with the top podcasts of 2021!

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The Best of 2021: Strength and Conditioning Articles

With 2021 winding down, I'm using this last week of the year to direct you to some of the most popular content of the past 12 months at EricCressey.com, as this "series" has been quite popular over the past few years. Today, we start with the most popular articles of the year; these are the pieces that received the most traffic, according to my hosting statistics.

1. An Overlooked Function of Serratus Anterior - If you've followed my work for just about any length of time, you've probably quickly learned that I pay a lot of attention to serratus anterior for its profound impact on upper extremity function. And, this article was no exception.

2. 3 Shoulder-Specific Programming Principles - I ran a sale on my Sturdy Shoulder Solutions resource earlier in the year, and wrote up this piece to elaborate on some principles you'll find in that product.

3. 5 Lessons from a First-Round Draft Pick - In the 2021 Major League Baseball Draft, Cressey Sports Performance had 15 athletes selected – including three of the top 30 picks. Here are some important lessons you can learn from one of them.

4. Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training: Medicine Ball Edition - This feature outlined some key medicine ball programming principles you can employ when designing strength and conditioning plans.

5. Thinking Beyond Diagnostic Imaging - In the past, I've written about the need for both "Medical" and "Movement" diagnoses. In reality, there might be a middle ground that helps to unify the two - and I discuss it in this article.

I'll be back soon with another "Best of 2021" feature. Up next, the top videos of the year!

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Exercise of the Week: 1-Arm, 1-Leg Kettlebell Swing with Rack Assistance

Today's guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance - Florida coach, Josh Kuester.

In some cases, baseball players (especially pitchers) are told that they are fragile, and consequently a heavy dose of “corrective exercises” are handed out. But throwing a baseball is the fastest motion in sports, and hitting a baseball might be the most challenging task in all of sports. Baseball players are not merely finesse athletes; they are power athletes. I love integrating exercises that challenge both of these ends of the spectrum to some degree, and the 1-arm, 1-leg Kettlebell Swing with Rack Assistance is a perfect example.

Here are four reasons why I like this exercises with some of my thoughts as to how I might implement this variation with athletes:

1. Beauty in Simplicity

For coaches who train large groups of athletes with limited time (and/or resources), you understand that there is beauty in simplicity. Additionally, for baseball players, I think simplicity in the weight room is really important because their sport is highly complex. For a long time, CSP has been implementing medicine ball training as a staple for power development. There are numerous benefits to medicine ball training: plane specific power, fascial system development, lower and upper half connection. However, one element that might be overlooked is that throwing a medicine ball is relatively simple, and simple exercises have higher intent. The learning curve on the 1-Arm, 1-Leg KB Swing with Rack Assistance is very low and allows athletes to move a moderate load on a single leg with high intensity.

2. Unilateral and Sagittal Power Development

While the 1-Arm, 1-Leg KB Swing with Rack Assistance is more of a sagittal plane exercise, it is a unilateral variation and baseball is a unilateral sport. Additionally, in the early to mid-off season, we are not aggressively going after large volumes of transverse plane power development. In many cases, we are re-establishing sagittal plane mechanics before progressing to more frontal and transverse plane power exercises later in the off-season.

3. Contrast Training

Contrast training is something that we use at CSP from time to time. In short, contrast training is using a variety of exercises (anywhere from 2-4) that hit different points on the force/velocity curve to potentiate the neuromuscular system to produce more force. I like this variation because it fits in the rather large gap between absolute strength and absolute speed on the force-velocity cure.

This variation will fit nicely in a contrast training cluster of:

1. Safety Squat Bar Split-Squat from Pins
2. 1-Arm, 1-Leg KB Swing with Rack Assistance
3. Split-Squat Cycle Jumps
4. Band-Assisted Split Squat Cycle Jumps

Or:

1. 1-Arm, 1-Leg KB Swing with Rack Assistance
2. 1-Leg Broad Jump with 2-Leg Stick

4. Heel Connection

Pitchers and hitters alike often discuss the concept of “heel connection” and wanting to feel the ground. Staying connected in the back hip allows for better sequencing of hip and thoracic rotation when throwing/hitting, which results in more efficient transfer of energy from back-side to front-side. If an athlete gets into the ball of their foot too early, it can influence the magnitude and direction in which they apply force. I love this variation because it forces the athlete to feel the ground, and because the load is moderate, it forces the athlete to have heel reference; otherwise they will lose balance.

Final Thoughts on Performing and Implementing this Exercise

1. This is an exercise that I would only use for an athlete with a moderate to high training
age.
2. Pick a weight that you would use for a single leg RDL.
3. The added stability of holding the rack allows for high intent/speed with a moderate load.
4. The stabilizing hand should be just above hip height.
5. I prefer to have athletes perform this barefoot or in minimalist sneakers so that the athlete can feel the ground.

About the Author

Josh Kuester serves as a Strength and Conditioning Coach at CSP-FL. He began his collegiate career playing baseball at DIII UW-Whitewater where he played middle infield. After an injury plagued freshman and sophomore season, he ended up pursuing his bachelors from the University of Wisconsin and his masters from UW-Stevens Point. He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), and a board-certified Athletic Trainer (ATC). He has been a strength coach at the high school and collegiate level. In addition, he has coached various ages of travel baseball for Impact Sports Academy, a club baseball program out of De Pere, Wisconsin. From the fall of 2020 to the spring 2021 he served as a Sports Medicine intern at Northwestern University where he primarily worked with the football team. You can follow him on Instagram at @JoshKuester.

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CSP Clothing Stocking Stuffers!

With December upon us, we've got some new designs available for holiday gifts with CSP logos. Specifically, our classic Elite Baseball Development Home Plate Logo t-shirt is now available in four colors: black, military green, navy, and sand. They're $24.99 + shipping/handling:

Click the links below to add shirts to your cart:

Black XXL, Black Extra Large, Black Large, Black Medium, Black Small

Military Green XXL, Military Green Extra Large, Military Green Large, Military Green Medium, Military Green Small

Navy XXL, Navy Extra Large, Navy Large, Navy Medium, Navy Small

Sand XXL, Sand Extra Large, Sand Large, Sand Medium, Sand Small

You can also purchase our classic royal blue CSP Camo Shirt for $24.99:

Click the links below to add shirts to your cart:

XXL, Extra Large, Large, Medium, Small 

Finally, we recently introduced Cressey Sports Performance headbands. They're available in five different colors/styles (top to bottom, below): red camo, black/red blend, black camo, white, and black):

They are $15 each or five for $60. 

Purchase Individually: Please note the style you'd like in the comments/special instructions box at checkout.

Bundle Purchase (5 for the price of four, so one of each color)

Happy Holidays!

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2021 Black Friday/Cyber Monday Sales!

Just like everyone else on the planet, I'm offering some great Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales. We're just going to kick it off a week early so you have time to sort through it all! From now through next Monday (11/29) at midnight, you can get 25% off the following resources by using the coupon code BF2021EC at checkout.

These eight resources can be purchased through my secure website:

Sturdy Shoulder Solutions - My most recent product release delves going into a ton of depth on some important topics with respect to upper extremity evaluation, programming, and training. Learn more HERE.

CSP Innovations - A collaborative effort by the Cressey Sports Performance staff about a variety of topics. Learn more HERE.

The Specialization Success Guide - A great resource for those looking to pursue strength gains on the big three (squat, bench press, deadlift). Learn more HERE.

The Ultimate Offseason Training Manual - This was the first book I wrote, and it's stood the test of time because of how much of the writing was based on principles that'll last forever. Learn more HERE.

Understanding and Coaching the Anterior Core - A presentation that will bring you up to speed on an important aspect of core training for health and high performance. Learn more HERE.

The Truth About Unstable Surface Training - This e-book covers one of the more controversial topics in the training and rehabilitation worlds today. Learn more HERE.

Everything Elbow - A quick presentation that highlights the key aspects of taking care of throwing elbows. Learn more HERE.

The Art of the Deload - A special report that helps you sort through various approaches to deloading in training programs. Learn more HERE.

And, these two resources I co-created with Mike Reinold can be purchased through his website:

Functional Stability Training (includes Core, Upper, Lower, and Optimizing Movement) - We cover everything from assessment, to programming, to coaching cues, to bridging the gap between rehab and high performance.

Optimal Shoulder Performance - This is a great "primer" on the basics of the shoulder.

Remember, just enter BF2021EC to get the discount.

Enjoy!

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Cressey Sports Performance Headbands Now Available!

After years of requests for them, we finally got around to making some Cressey Sports Performance headbands. They're available in five different colors/styles (top to bottom, below): red camo, black/red blend, black camo, white, and black):

They are $15 each or five for $60. 

Purchase Individually: Please note the style you'd like in the comments/special instructions box at checkout.

Bundle Purchase (5 for the price of four, so one of each color)

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An Overlooked Function of Serratus Anterior

Serratus anterior gets:

1. A lot of love as a scapular protractor

2. Some love as a scapular upward rotator

3. Even less love as a posterior tilter of the scapula

4. Just about zero love for its impact on rib internal/external rotation.

Most importantly, you'll see that the upper fibers of the serratus anterior attach on the first rib - the very bone that's removed during thoracic outlet surgery.


Images by Anatomography - en:Anatomography (setting page of this image), CC BY-SA 2.1 jp, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27010000

When the serratus fires, it depresses the first rib and clears space under the clavicle for important nerve and vascular structures to pass.

If you take a second to think about it while looking at the anatomy charts below, you'll appreciate that this attachment effectively makes serratus anterior an antagonist to the scalenes and subclavius, which both elevate the first rib.

This is one reason why a lot of the thoracic outlet syndrome cases you'll encounter aren't your classic kyphotic (hunchback) posture, but actually a lot of flat thoracic spine, heavy scapular downward rotation/depression, and horizontal clavicle presentations.

Getting serratus anterior going favorably impacts scapular upward rotation (which brings the clavicle up), first rib positioning, and the ideal convex-concave relationship between the rib cage and scapula.

Fun fact: serratus anterior also indirectly impacts contralateral thoracic rotation, but that's a post for another day!

If you're looking to learn more about how I assess, coach, and program for the upper extremity, be sure to check out Sturdy Shoulder Solutions.

 

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Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training: Installment 38

I'm going to try to get back on track for one installment of this long-running series each month. This month, it's a speed/agility theme, as it's fresh on my mind with this week's $200 off sale on Lee Taft's awesome Certified Speed and Agility Coach certification. Let's get to it.

1. I'm not sure I really like sled sprinting for making most athletes faster.

I'll probably take some heat for this, but hear me out.

Research has shown that running with sled resistance can help athletes run faster. If you search for "resisted sprinting sled" at Pubmed, you'll get 63 results - most of which show a beneficial effect. You know what most of them will also show? A bunch of study subjects who really haven't done a whole lot of strength training. It seems like 2/3 of these studies are in:

a) professional soccer players, who we all know LOOOOOVEEE the weight room (that was sarcasm, for those who aren't picking it up)

or

b) high school soccer players, who are even weaker than the pro soccer players who hate lifting (and don't have much training experience)

My feeling is that anytime you take athletes who are either a) really weak or b) hard-wired to the absolute speed end of the continuum (or both) and shift them toward the absolute strength side of things (even if it's not all the way), you'll see benefit.

Here's where things take a twist. In the real world, resisted sled work actually gets integrated in two ways:

a) coaches who don't have a lot of equipment or an actual facility look for ways to challenge strength a bit more outside at a field. So, it's a little load for athletes that probably need a lot of load (absolute strength) to thrive.

b) coaches/athletes who are infatuated with lifting heavy stuff and don't know how to program/coach sprint/agility work very well use sleds as a way to try to convince themselves they're actually making getting faster a priority. The loads are typically far too heavy to move the weight fast and challenge elastic qualities to a great degree. As such, it's not enough of a shift to the absolute speed end of the continuum to give them optimal benefit.

If you dig in on the research enough, you'll see this. This 2020 study demonstrated greater benefits over 8 weeks of training with 40% of body weight as loading than with 80% of body weight (the latter group actually got slower). Another 2020 study of rugby players found that "80% BM [body mass] induced significantly higher hip flexion, lower knee flexion, and higher ankle dorsiflexion than 20% BM condition at 5-10 and 10-20 m distances (p < 0.05). Lighter sled loads (<40% BM) seem to be more adequate to improve speed ability without provoking drastic changes in the unloaded sprinting technique, whereas heavier loads may be more suitable for optimizing horizontal force production and thus, acceleration performance."

You know who already typically have great acceleration scores? Strong people. They can muscle their way through the first portion of movement and get away with just dabbling in the long (or slow) stretch shortening cycle (>250ms ground contact time) before they get exposed in the short (or fast) stretch-shortening cycle (<250ms ground contact time). Sprinting (and its derivatives) should be short/fast SSC initiatives.

In short, I really don't think sled work makes people faster if they're already doing a lot of strength training work. And, I'm not sure I buy that it's the most efficient way to teach acceleration mechanics. If you're going to use it in conjunction with a comprehensive strength training program, make sure the load of the sled is really light.

And, if you're planning to load it up more, it'll probably work best in scenarios of naturally elastic athletes who don't have a huge foundation of strength. It's probably good for limited equipment scenarios, but be cautious of how much you integrate because it may actually negative impact sprinting mechanics.

Now, feel free to argue on Twitter if you want to disagree with me.

2. Just coaching a directional step doesn't necessarily improve speed; you have to coach the other leg, too.

In a 2017 study, Tomohisa et al. found that the jab step (also known as the directional step) is superior for base stealing. No surprise there; it's what the overwhelming majority of successful baserunners do at the pro and college levels. However, what I think this study did do a great job of is discussing why the jab step is superior to the crossover step, thanks to both a motion capture system and two force platforms:

"The results showed that the normalised average forward external power, the average forward-backward force exerted by the left leg, and the forward velocities of the whole body centre of gravity generated by both legs and the left leg were significantly higher for the JS start than for the CS start. Moreover, the positive work done by hip extension during the left leg push-off was two-times greater for the JS start than the CS start."

Boiled down to simpler terms, while the right leg gets a ton of attention for it setting up acceleration via a) creating a positive shin and b) mechanically repositioning the center of mass outside the base of support, the truth is that we should be talking about how the left leg is doing the lion's share of the work. Doubling your hip extension is a HUGE deal, as you're gaining ground without having to reach with the front leg (which could set you up for negative shin angles on subsequent steps).

That said, it still has to be coached; just coaching the right leg doesn't get the job done. You have to teach them to feel the left leg push-off. I like telling the athlete to "push the ground away" on the trailing leg, and have also seen some benefit by standing between 1st and 2nd base and having the athlete isometrically against me to get a feel for what the back hip/leg should be doing.

3. Playing multiple sports is great not only for exposure to a wide variety of movement patterns, but also because of the high volume of variable plyometric activity involved.

Playing multiple sports builds better long-term athletes in large part because they're exposed to rich proprioceptive environments that enable them to develop motor strategies for dealing with any challenge sports or life may throw at them. If you build a big foundation of general athletic proficiency, you're more likely to be successful when the time comes to stack specific athletic proficiencies on top of that base. However, there's likely another benefit: volume.

I recall reading years ago that the average midfielder makes 2,200 changes of direction in a soccer match. That's a ton of work - and no two cuts are like one another. I'm sure you can find similar crazy statistics with basketball, tennis, football, and a host of other activities. It's so hard to find that "varied" volume in any other way - and it's particularly advantageous that many of these activities take place during childhood growth spurts, when it's super advantageous to train power (great stuff from Dr. Greg Rose on this in this previous podcast), because long bone growth has outpaced the ability of muscles/tendons to keep up. As such, you get springy athletes!

I've often said that it's easier to make a fast guy strong than it is to make a strong guy fast. One reason for this is that it's not hard to build strength with a limited volume of work in the weight room. However, it's incredibly hard to build elasticity without a ton of reps. And, if I get a baseball-only kid at age 16 who hasn't played multiple sports, I've got an uphill battle to chase elasticity - both of the tendons and fascial system - without hurting him.

So, take my word for it: early specialization is a bad idea - and we're discovering more and more reasons why that's the case with each passing day.

One Final Note: If you're looking to learn more about Lee's approach to programming and coaching speed and agility work, I highly recommend his Certified Speed and Agility Coach course. The information is top notch, and it's on sale for $200 off through Sunday. This resource is mandatory viewing for all our staff members, and it was actually filmed at Cressey Sports Performance - MA. You can learn more HERE

 

 

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All-Star Break Sale: Get Functional Stability Training for 25% Off

Today is the first day of Major League Baseball's All-Star Break, a welcomed "recharge" period for players and staff - and also an exciting few days of highlighting the great present and future talents of MLB.

To celebrate, Mike Reinold and I have put our Functional Stability Training series on sale for 25% off through Friday at midnight. These are some of our most popular resources, so don't miss out on this great chance to pick them up at an excellent discount. Just head to www.FunctionalStability.com and enter the coupon code MLB2021EC at checkout to get the discount.

Here's what a few industry leaders have to save about FST:

“After 30 years of coaching, I do whatever I can to cut out the middle man when it comes to learning a concept, method, or training strategy- I go straight to the source whenever possible. I can’t tell you how impressed I am with the precision and focus of two of the best professional in performance and therapy. Mike Reinold and Eric Cressey are game changers and Functional Stability Training is world-class.”

Lee Taft, Strength and Conditioning Coach

"When it comes to teaching the function of the body in terms sport performance and rehab, you can’t get much better than Eric Cressey and Mike Reinold. When these two team up, great things happen, consistently and emphatically. Functional Stability Training is a fantastic product that I would recommend to any trainer, coach, or rehab professional that wants to expand their knowledge."

Dean Somerset, BSc. Kinesiology, CEP, CSCS, MEPD


Again, just head to to www.FunctionalStability.com and enter the coupon code MLB2021EC at checkout to get the discount.
 

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